Alessandra Illiano (’23)

April 10, 2023


Alessandra Illiano (’23) stays true to her Italian roots while flourishing in her new life in the United States. (Batul El Barouki (’23))

One would never know that fellow Cherry Hill High School East student Alessandra Illiano (‘23) has been learning to speak English only since last December of 2022. As a member of the senior class, Alessandra Illiano has worked really hard to make lasting friendships and learn how to navigate the American school system while impressively increasing her English mastery.

With more detail into Alessandra’s fascinating past, she was born in the U.S. while her parents were on vacation here, she then moved back to her home country of Italy at nine months old.

“One day me and my sister decided we wanted to see America, the place we were born, so we came here for Christmas in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Then we eventually moved here for my dad’s job.”

After those few trips to the U.S., the rest was history. Illiano moved here last December and has immersed herself in American culture while preserving the traditions and holidays that highlight her strong Italian heritage. While most of Alessandra’s family remain in Italy, she has Sunday dinner with her uncle and parents every week in order to share quality time and cook her favorite dish: lasagna.

Some of the American school culture shocked Alessandra deeply when moving here.

“I started to come to school with fancy clothes, and then I saw everyone with pajamas. The style in Italy is just so different.”

After seeing East students in sweatshirts and sweatpants, Alessandra had to quickly re-evaluate her wardrobe, adamant to keep wearing her excellently matched outfits with her hair done superbly every morning. Fortunately, she quickly realized she really did enjoy wearing comfortable clothes to school and loved her shift from jeans to sweatpants. However, Illiano is not incredibly fond of some other aspects of highschool.

“If you want to know someone you start to talk in person, here everyone is on their phone, I prefer to be with my friends and talk in person.”

Alessandra deeply values face to face interactions and she believes that it is key to building meaningful relationships during her time at East.

“You just have to be friendly alot, no one is going to make the first move and come up to you and say ‘want to be my friend?’ [Being] outgoing helped me to make friends and learn English.”

These notable qualities allow Alessandra to have a passionate and assertive personality.

What makes Alessandra’s outlook so unique is that she has lived two very different lives, both of which have taught her to be her own person.

“Because I travel a lot from Italy to the U.S., I learned how to be alone and independent.”

Navigating the airport and endless vacationing around Spain and streets of Paris alone with her sister has taught her valuable lessons of responsibility that she incorporates into her daily life. Despite the gruesomely mundane high school days in the U.S., Alessandra has adopted a useful routine in order to ensure her homework is always complete and she is prepared for the work day.

Alessandra takes great pride in introducing her best friends to her favorite Italian habits.

“I was surprised that people here eat eggs or bacon and bagels for breakfast, I don’t. I eat bread and nutella or cookies and coffee.”

Her friends sure do love indulging in kinder chocolates dipped in Nescafé at her house on Sunday mornings.

Alessandra’s interests range greatly from shopping and fashion to sports. She is especially an avid fan of the Napoli Italian professional football team. Football is incredibly important to Italian culture and is a staple in the Illiano household because the games are so easy to watch.

“The Napoli team played right by my house in Italy, I always watched the games and met the players. It was always so easy.”

If she is not cheering Napoli’s Alessio Zerbin, she is at the mall shopping. Her dream is to study at the Italian Fashion Institute of Rome.

“I want to study the world of fashion, since I was young I have always wanted to learn how to become a model.”

She plans to finish her high school studies in the U.S. and return to Italy for a six month break. Alessandra is excited to spend time with her friends, sister, and grandma in her beloved home country of Italy.

Alessandra has proven to be accomplished in all her endeavors. Despite the language barrier when it comes to taking her driving test or even getting a job, she continues to improve every day in the U.S. She loves to learn and has exciting plans for her future. Coming to high school in the U.S. from another country poses endless challenges but none of which prevented Alessandra from making best friends, having close relationships with her teachers, and keeping in touch with her family that she misses gravely.

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